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In the Name of God بسم الله

Indepth list of Muslim Inventions

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The impact of Muslim learning on the West

Did you know that between the 7th and 12th centuries, when religion dominated European culture that Muslim educational institutions led the way? As the results of their progressive education reached the West through Muslim works covering everything from medicine to history they helped encourage the revival of learning in Europe.

Scales in music

Did you know that the basic scale in music today comes from Arabic syllables do, re, mi, fa, sol, la and ti? The Arabic alphabet for these notes is Dal-Ra-Mim-Fa-Sad-Lam-Sin.

Foundations of chemistry

Did you know that Muslim scientist Al-Razi set up the foundations of modern chemistry by setting up for the first modern laboratory in the modern sense, designing, describing and using more than twenty instruments, many parts are still in use today.

The origins of Flamenco

Did you know that the popular Spanish music and dance of Flamenco comes from the phrase 'Fallah Mango', meaning the running farmers, a singing style developed by Moorish farmers facing the injustice of inquisition.

600 years before braille

Did you know that well before braille was invented that some 600 years before a Syrian muslim had created his own system? The distinguished blind Arab professor, Zain-Din al Amidi in the 14th century improvised a method by which he identified his books and made notes. Although blind soon after birth, he led a studious life, interesting himself particularly in jurisprudence and foreign languages.

In the Market


Rather than eating potatoes and soggy swedes like Medieval Europe, the Islamic world over 800 years ago had a constant supply of fresh foods to eat throughout the whole year.

This was made possible with the development of crop rotation which meant land could be farmed more than once a year. With the introduction of seasonal foods from areas within the whole caliphate (similar to an empire), there was a variety of foods for a healthy diet.

Did you know that apricots, oranges and artichokes were brought into Europe by the Muslims? The numerous trade routes that existed allowed many countries and people to share knowledge, produce and wealth. These trade routes stretched from Southern Spain to the Western borders of China, trailing from Northern Turkey to as far south as Sri Lanka.

Laying down the red carpet

Did you know that the carpet industry orignated in the Muslim world, developing this ancient industry into very sophisticated designs.

On a day to day level, Arabs used carpets in various ways - to decorate their tent as well as cover the sandy floor. In Spain the royal caliphal courts came up with the idea of using carpets for formal events which became part of the custom of rolling out carpets for visits from royalty and ambassadors, which was adopted in Europe in the 12th century.

Ecological friendly farming

Farmers in the Muslim world were able to feed the many millions using their acquired knowledge, without damaging the land, based on tried and tested experience. In the 9th century they even introduced new crops and invented new irrigation systems that radically improved the amount of crops they could grow.

Turning clay to gold

As far back as the 8th century potters working in what is now Iraq developed a mysterious process called lustre. This was described as an 'extraordinary metallic sheen, which rivals even precious metals in its effects, all but turning objects of clay to gold'.

Invention of cheese

Did you know that cheese was first made in the Middle East? The earliest type was a form of sour milk which was created when it was discovered that domesticated animals could be milked.

One legend has it that cheese was 'discovered' by an unknown Arab nomad. He is said to have filled a saddlebag with milk to sustain him on a journey across the desert by horse. After several hours he stopped to drink, only to find that the milk had separated into a pale watery liquid and solid white lumps. The nomad, unconcerned with technical details, found the whey drinkable and the curds edible.

Muslim Contribution to Agriculture

History books in schools usually convey the notion that the agricultural revolution took place in recent times in the form of rotation of crops, advanced irrigation techniques, plant improvements, etc... some such changes only taking place in the last couple of centuries in Europe, and some even taking place nowadays.

It is explained that such revolutionary changes fed the increasing European population, released vast numbers from the land and allowed agriculture to produce a capital surplus, which was invested in industry, thus leading to the industrial revolution of the 18th-19th century. This is the accepted wisdom until one comes across works on Muslim agriculture and discovers that such changes took place over ten centuries ago in the Muslim world, some such changes being the foundations of much of what we have today. Watson, Glick and Bolens (endnote 1), in particular, indeed, show that the major breakthroughs were achieved by Muslim farmers on the land, and by Muslim scholars with their treatises on the subject. Thus, as with other subjects, prejudice distorts history, Muslim achievements of ten centuries ago covered up; a point raised by the French scholar, Cherbonneau, who holds: `it is admitted with difficulty that a nation in majority of nomads could have had known any form of agricultural techniques other than sowing wheat and barley.

The misconceptions come from the rarity of works on the subject... If we took the bother to open up and consult the old manuscripts, so many views will be changed, so many prejudices will be destroyed.'

The Coffee Trail: Origins of the Muslim beverage

Most American and Europeans, think that Muslim food and cuisine are confined to Curry, Biryani, Kebabs, Chapati and Pitta and sweets such as Kulfi and Baklawa. They are not aware of the numerous other foods and drinks, supposedly western, which are of Muslim origins.

An example of these is coffee, which has invaded every household's breakfast.



Muslim contributions can be seen all around us, however the most prominent place is probably in the hospital.

Ancient manuscripts depicting how blood flows throughout the body were drawn as early as 800CE. Large volumes of books were written and detailed illustrations were made to record the many different types of medical procedures that developed.

Patient records and different wards exist as far back as the 9th century, making this a major development in the world’s civilisation.

Sight savers

Did you know the first operation to remove cataracts was carried out as early as the 10th century Iraq. Muslims also established the first apothecary shops and dispensaries, founded the first medieval school of pharmacy, and wrote great treatises on pharmacology.

Pioneering plastic surgery

Did you know that way back in the 10th century Muslim doctor Al-Zahrawi pioneered plastic surgery. In fact it was his parctice of using ink to mark the incisions became now as a routine standard procedure, and most of the instruments he invented are still used.

Allergic reaction

If you've ever had an allergic reaction to something you may be interested to know that this problem was first studied by a Muslim scolar, Al-Razi, who also discovered asthma.

Mohammed's toothbrush

While the toothbrush may appear a modern invention the Prophet Mohammed made popular the use of a piece from the Meswak tree to clean the teeth and freshen the breath! Amazingly when a Swiss pharmaceutical company tested Meswak it was found to contain substances which destroy the harmful germs in the mouth which cause gum infections and tooth decay.

The invention of cosmetics

Did you know that cosmetics were introduced to the West by a Muslim doctor? Al-Zahrawi wrote a medical encyclopaedia, one section which was devoted completely to cosmetics. The cosmetics part, used by most western universities to teach new doctors from the 12-17th century. In fact a product called kuhl, coming from Arabic kohl, is the origin of mascara.



Street lighting, drainage, public parks and kiosks were all the early characteristics of a modern city. And it all began in Cordoba in Spain.

Islamic town planning involved a mosque at the centre with kiosks, boutiques and market spreading outwards. Public amenities such as Turkish baths were available as cleanliness was an important aspect of a Muslim’s life. Many industries boomed as the hustle and bustle of the city grew with people flocking over to create their business, trade, exchange knowledge and enroute to Hajj.

Pottery, jewellery making, perfume, paper and the textile industry flourished, especially as merchants wanted to export goods from one place to another. A result of this was the mass production of products - this can be seen as the industrial revolution of the Arab world.

Perfumes from the East

Musk and floral perfumes were brought to Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries from Arabia, through trade with the Islamic world and with the returning Crusaders. Those who traded for these were most often also involved in trade for spices and dyestuffs. There are records of the Pepperers Guild of London which go back to 1179; their activities include trade in spices, perfume ingredients and dyes.

Smelling of roses

Muslims were the first to distill roses and obtain the rose water. Rose perfumes are made from attar of roses or rose oil, which is a mixture of volatile essential oils obtained by steam-distilling the crushed petals of roses. The technique originated in Persia (the word rose itself is from Persian). It is also believed that Muslims introduced the rose into Spain from which they spread into Europe.

The history of the tent

Did you know that the tent is the symbol of ancient Arabia? The Ottomans gave it a new impetus making it a royal structure, which was set up for ceremonial occasions and trips. The tent was adopted in Europe initially for the same function, but later was developed into roof style used in large buildings such as botanic gardens, rail stations as well as for camping.

The development of gardening

While gardening is an ancient occupation, the Muslims were expert garden designers - behind the introduction of sophisticated geometrical landscape designs incorporating a variety of plants, flowers and trees.

You may have heard that Romans invented water fountains but did you know that Muslims also gave the use of fountains a new dimension by adding a water flow system sometimes in dazling colours to impress visitors.

Next time you see a kiosk..

If you've ever been to a shaoping mall or train station you've probably been to a kiosk. But the kiosk as a building type is not a new invention - it was first introduced as a small building attached to the main mosque and consisted of a domed hall with open arched sides.

In the World


Man has always been fascinated by natural phenomena, and the Muslims were no exception.

Al-Biruni, the 14th century physicist was able to calculate the circumference of the Earth and its tilt 600 years before Galileo. Other discoveries provided a scientific explanation for tide changes, equinoxes, seasons, why the sky is blue and why rainbows occur.

As explorers and seafarers crossed the globe, detailed mapping techniques were developed such that Al-Idrisi became the first to compile the world map that included the “new world”.

Discover what happened to 9th century Abbas ibn Firnas when he was strapped to his feather glider in the first attempt at human flight.

Development of chemistry

Did you know that much of the essentials of modern chemistry is based on a Muslim chemist? Persian-born Al-Razi's achievements are of exceptional importance in the history of chemistry, since in his books we find for the first time a systematic classification of chemical substances.

He is also credited with the discovery of sulphuric acid, sometimes described as the backbone of modern chemistry, and chemical engineering among other things. He also discovered ethanol and its refinement and use in medicine.

The father of algebra

You may not have heard of Al-Khwarizmi, a Persian scientist and mathematician, who is credited with inventing algebra as we know it today. He composed the oldest works on arithmetic and algebra. They were the principal source of mathematical knowledge for centuries to come in the East and the West. The word algebra is actually derived from the title of one of his books 'Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah'.

First bold attempt at flight

Did you know that the first really scientific attempt to fly in the Muslim World was made in the 9th century? Abul Qasim Ibn Firnas, who lived in the Spainish city of Cordoba, built a glider which was capable of carrying a human being. People from the city turned out to see the maiden flight from a mountain top. His plane carried him some distance but then it crashed and he was fatally injured.

The first windmill

Did you know that the first windmill was constructed as early as 7th century? It originated in Persia (Iran) in the province of Siestan. Al-Msaudi an Arab geographer described the region as a country of wind and sand. He also wrote that characteristic of the area is that the power of the wind is used to drive pumps for watering gardens.

From bucket to bike

Did you know that Muslim engineer Al-Jazari came up with an ingenious device for lifting huge buckets of water without lifting a finger? It was grandly called the crank-connecting rod system. This was his most important contribution to engineering, and had a huge impact on the development of technology. This simple device started a revolution in engineering that has found it highest form of expression in the bicycle.

In the Universe


The lunar calendar played an important role in Islamic life. It told the times of prayers and dictated when holy festivities should occur.

The quest for accurate lunar predictions meant that techniques for observing the moon and other celestial bodies became very sophisticated.

The development of the astrolabe, a type of star locator that depends on your position of latitude, meant people could navigate as well as predict when the sun should rise and set. As a result, mathematics also grew and theorems were proven.

See if you can spot the constellation and moon craters named after famous Islamic scholars - there are over 160 names to be found!

Innovators in astronomy

Did you know that historians of astronomy often refer to the time from the 8th through the 14th centuries as the Islamic period? As that was when most study of the stars took place in the Muslim world.

The reason for this was in part down to closeness to the Greek world of ancient learning, plus a tolerance for scholars of other beliefs. In the 9th century most of the Greek scientific texts were translated into Arabic. It was through these translations that the Greek works later became known in medieval Europe.

The second push came from the need for people to correctly observe their religious beliefs, which presented a host of problems mostly related to timekeeping. These developments, notably in the field of trigonometry, provided the essential tools for the creation of Western astronomy.

The inventor of the pendulum

Did you know that the pendulum was invented by an Egyptian scientist in the 10th century? Ibn Yunus's invention led to the measurement of time by its swinging motion (called oscillations). Strange but true - it's also claimed that he predicted his own death, seven days prior to the event, and without any outward sign of ill health.

Long before Copernicus

Did you know that long before Copernicus astronomer Ibn Al-Shatir in the 13th century figure out that despite appearances the earth revolved around the sun. It remains controversial whether Copernicus was directly influenced by al-Shatir's work. The idea of the movement of the planets is attributed to Kepler and Copernicus while not crediting the contribution of Ibn Al-Shatir. The fact is though the maths by Ibn al-Shatir are identical to those of Copernicus.

The world's first planetarium

Did you know that what is believed to be the first planetarium was first built in the in the city of Cordoba in Spain by Ibn Firnas? It was made out of glass showing the sky at it was then, very much resembling todays planetariums, adding to it artificial thunder noise and lightening. Ibn Firnas, who lived in the 9th century, eventually died after attempting to demonstrate human flight, but crashed and was critically injured.

Red at night..

Did you know that Muslim scientist Ibn Al-Haytham not only did a lot of the basic work in inventing the glasses we wear today, but was also the first to explain why the sky still glows even after the sun has gone down. Alhazen figured out that the reason it doesn't suddenly go dark when the sun sets because some light still appears because it's reflected by the earth's atmosphere.

Modelling the Stars

From the beginnings of human awakening people have pondered at the amazing canopy of stars and at the movement of everything in the sky. Clearly there was order in the heavens. Many attempts were made to identify the patterns in this order. This had great significance to life, since through these observations and derivations of rules we have the beginnings of predictive science. We can predict the position of the Sun in the sky, the Moon, the timing of eclipses, the changing position of the planets and the stars. In an attempt to make these predictions easier, people from many great Civilisations have built different kinds of models reflecting in a physical form what they have seen. These models were built based on the perspective of the earth with a sphere of stars surrounding the earth. There were several kinds of models:

1. Celestial Globes

2. Astrolabes

3. Armillary Spheres

Muslim Astronomers took much from Greek astronomical calculations and models and improved on them in several ways making the measurements and predictions more and more accurate.

Using an Astrolabe

Al Sufi, one of the most famous astronomers of the Islamic world was writing in Isfahan (in modern day Iran) in the 10th century. In his writings he outlined over 1000 uses of an astrolabe. Accounts of the astrolabe as a scientific instrument range from the very earliest given by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in around 150BC through writings from the Islamic world to modern day descriptions by historians and curators and all emphasise that the astrolabe is an extremely versatile instrument.

The fundamental operation of astrolabes has varied little in their long history, all use the relationship between the apparent movement of the stars, as seen from a particular latitude on Earth, and time ��� allowing them to be used to find the time from the stars or Sun, and the position of the stars and Sun at a particular time (a feature particularly useful when casting horoscopes). All similarly have the flexibility to be used as both an observational instrument and as an aid to mathematical calculation.

An astrolabe is made up of 4 main pieces:

- the mater or base plate

- the rete or top web-like plate which shows the fixed stars, the ecliptic (the zodiac constellations and part of the sky across which the Sun travels) and certain naked eye stars

- the plates, each of which is made for a different latitude. Each plate has engraved on it a grid marking the zenith (point directly over head), the horizon and all the altitudes in between

- the alidade or rule with sights used for making observations and reading off scales.

The rete and plates are designed to fit into the mater.


Edited by Kizilbash
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